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Semi-final Review, Roma

Joker defeats Fed; Rafa Def. Ferrer


May 19, 2012 | 09:58 PM

Joker v Roger

With Joker playing by far the best tennis we have seen from him since Australia, it didn't look like Italian fans would get all of the drama they wanted in the night match, so when Roger earned his first break point of the match after fighting off a match point at 4-5 in the 2nd set, they were standing and screaming.

The first set had been an uncompetitive 6-2 for Joker, with the Serb's power and placement with his returns and serves getting Fed off balance. Rog's backhand errors mounted, and he lost extended rallies and quick bids for winners. With a 1st serve going in only 39% of the time, and only one ace, his free points were hard to come by and Joker didn't give him enough to get him into the set.

In the 2nd set Joker didn't let up on his serving or returning, continuing to hold easily and force Roger into long games. The measure of how convincing the 1st set had been was that Rog changed his game plan in the 2nd, going for winners at the start of points. While he made some wild looking errors, he managed to hold through two difficult games before his serve started to help him. But after one easy hold at 2-2, Joker went up 40-15 at 3-3 and broke at 30-40 to take a 4-3 lead. Rog looked almost listless, but held one more time to make Joker serve for the match.

Then it got interesting. With the crowd desperate for exciting tennis, Roger found the lines with a forehand and a backhand winner. At 30-30, Roger went for a down-the-line backhand and missed by half an inch. But on match point, he defended long enough in a rally to be able to get his forehand on a ball and go inside out for a shot which found the line this time. The crowd went wild, and with Roger suddenly finding the range on both his groundies, two points later the set was at 5-5.

Roger held at love with his best service game of the match (the first hold that was vintage Federer) to put the pressure on Joker. At 5-6, 15-15, after an off-balance error from Joker's backhand, the Serb re-gained his composure and took 3 points to force the breaker.

After Roger missed his 1st serve, the first point in the breaker was a 25 shot slugfest, ending with Rog netting a ball on the forehand side of his court. Joker put in 1st serves and Roger erred to fall behind 0-3. Two more missed 1st serves could have ended his chances, had he not dug in and kept the ball in play. Joker held to 5-2; Roger made it 4-5, but couldn't connect on Joker's 2nd serve. A backhand error deep lost him the match, and set up a re-match of last year's final.

Though the margin of victory in the 2nd set was very thin, Joker appeared to be in a zone where a 3rd set would have been an inconvenience on his way to the final. But you couldn't have told the crowd that if Fed had continued his magical play long enough to win the breaker.

Rafa def. Ferrer 7-6 (6), 6-0.

Nadal started out looking as ferocious as ever on serve and return and going up 3-0, but Ferrer fought his way back and made it a tight set. As he has done so often in his close matches with Ferrer, Nadal outlasted and outhit the #2 Spaniard when he had to (this time he was down 1-3 in the breaker). After a first set which took almost 90 minutes, the match was over in 2 hours.

Nadal said he had played his best match of the year, and is pleased with reaching the final without losing a set. His memories are positive of the clay season - as for last week, he said, We can forget the tournament of Madrid - that was not clay.

Joker v Rafa (Live at 10 am Sunday on The TC, after the women's final)

After 29 matches against each other, the rivalry is so close that tomorrow's match will decide if Rafa still holds the H2H edge. No reminder is needed that for Rafa this win is more vital. Not only would it give him momentum before Paris and make him the favorite to take his 7th French Open, it would also re-gain him the #2 ranking and give him his best shot this year to play for #1.

Rick

Roma, ATP 5.19.26


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